USI Transfer, at the service of technology transfer


Institutional Communication Service

29 April 2024

As of 1 April, USI Transfer has changed from an office running a series of activities to an institutional Service within the University's administration. It now formally becomes USI Technology Transfer Service, or more simply TTO. Headed by Andrea Foglia, the service is part of USI's operational and administrative services in the Research, Transfer, and Ecosystem Development area.   

In the past, TTO activities were a part of the Research Service. However, as time passed and the number of dossiers grew, the Pro-rectorate for Innovation and Corporate Relations, led by Prof. Luca Maria Gambardella, was created. This paved the way for an independent Service, similar to those found in other universities in Switzerland and abroad.

The tasks of a technology transfer service

USI Transfer aims to safeguard and improve the technologies and knowledge obtained through academic research conducted at USI and affiliated institutes, including IRB, IOR, and IRSOL. Its primary goal is to facilitate the transfer of innovations from academia to the industry, thereby maximising their social and economic benefits.

Among the main functions of the service are, therefore, the assessment of the patentability of inventions developed by the University and their protection through patent applications. Additionally, it grants licenses for such technologies and negotiates and finalises collaboration contracts with external companies interested in working with USI. The service also provides assistance in establishing new companies that are based on intellectual property produced by the University, commonly known as "spin-off" companies.

An interface between research and industry

The service, which works alongside the USI Startup Centre as part of USI's "third mandate", i.e. to contribute to the development of society and the region, thus becomes to all intents and purposes the University's interface between research and the industry.

"From 2018 to date, we have processed more than 250 research contracts, 25 licences, 60 patentability assessments for new inventions, registered around 40 new patent applications and supported the creation of 7 new spin-off initiatives," explains Andrea Foglia, Head of the service.

"In recent years, some projects have achieved top positions in renowned competitions, such as the Boldbrain programme in Ticino. The region has been facing the issue of brain drain, but USI Transfer has been playing a crucial role in addressing this problem. It supports the creation of new companies with high added-value (spin-offs) and transfers knowledge and technologies to existing industrial firms in the canton. This helps to enhance their innovative capacity and create skilled jobs. However, due to confidentiality concerns, the contribution is not always apparent. However, USI intends to strengthen this work further, which is why we have decided to set up an independent service solely dedicated to technology transfer. I am certain that in the future our service will play an increasingly important role, just think of the context of the Switzerland Innovation Park Ticino".

"Consolidating technology transfer is strategic"

We collected the views on the new organisational structure of USI Transfer of the Pro-rector for Innovation and Corporate Relations Luca Maria Gambardella and of three individuals involved in technology transfer activities: Filippo Riva, Ena Lloret-Fritschi and Andrea Alimonti.  

For Luca Maria Gambardella, "Consolidating technology transfer activities is a strategic and fundamental approach to maximise the impact of research developed within the University on society. USI Transfer plays a crucial role in facilitating and supporting our researchers in utilising their scientific discoveries to develop practical solutions that companies can utilise. By doing so, USI is committed to strengthening its academic partnership of excellence and serving the region." 

Filippo Riva, General Manager of Humabs BioMed SA, a spin-off of the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB, affiliated to USI), now part of Vir Biotechnology, observes for his part: "Based on my experience, I can confirm that a quality technology transfer service with great expertise such as that of USI plays a crucial role in facilitating the transfer of innovative technologies from universities to companies. This offers a competitive advantage not only to the University itself but also to companies, stimulates the creation of skilled jobs and enriches our region. Through the technology transfer office, companies have a clear and well-prepared gateway to new technologies and skills, facilitating business innovation processes and promoting their growth," 

Ena Lloret-Fritschi, professor at the Academy of Architecture, points out: "As a professor dedicated to advancing innovative research, the Technology Transfer Office plays and essential role in safeguarding our inventions and facilitating the creation of new spin-offs. Their expertise and support are pivotal in transforming our scientific discoveries into commercial solutions, the TTO advise us in regard with our invention and supported us with the related patent prosecution. The patent application protects the technology at the core of our company (to be) 'Foldcast', this year our project won the Boldbrain accelerator program, also thanks to the intellectual property that has been secured and that will be license by the University TTO to our spin-off company". 

Andrea Alimonti, professor at the Faculty of Biomedical Sciences, director of the USI-affiliated Institute of Oncology Research (IOR) and co-founder of the spin-off company Oncosence, comments: "As a professor and director of a research institute, I believe that technology transfer services play a pivotal role in ensuring effective collaborations between academia and industry. The technology transfer offices act as facilitators in establishing links and negotiating collaboration contracts according to the appropriate criteria, which are in line with our standards. Additionally, they ensure that research results are transferred correctly. The expertise of these offices is crucial in establishing strong and productive collaborations.".

For more information on USI Transfer: